It may seem like some sort of unrealistic nightmare, but people are misdiagnosed every day in hospitals across the country. In fact, the actual number of people misdiagnosed may shock you: it is twelve million.

That’s twelve million individual cases every year in which someone is given the wrong diagnosis and sent home, and the results can be truly devastating. A misdiagnosis may mean cancer is missed or early signs of a stroke or heart attack. It may mean a condition is missed that leads to chronic pain or discomfort.

Twelve million times each year that happens. But perhaps that number does not affect you the way it should. Think of it instead like this: one in every twenty adults.

Consider how many people live in your neighborhood or apartment building. There are perhaps hundreds. Of those hundreds, one in every twenty will suffer from a misdiagnosis, and that one may well be you.

What can we do about this?

The issue is partly to do with the state of modern American medicine. Doctors simply do not take the time to examine their patients thoroughly. Through careless mistakes, they miss what they should never miss, and they send patients home thinking they are healthy when they are not, or thinking they are ill when they are healthy.

We cannot allow this to continue. The amount of suffering such recklessness causes is unconscionable in a modern society. We have to force doctors to be thorough, whether they want to be or not.

In order to do that, we can consider a few strategies. The first, and most important, is to personally press your doctor to slow down. Come to the office with a long list of questions, and don’t let the doctor leave until all are answered. And don’t just take the first answer at face value and move on. Question everything. Be skeptical of everything. If a test comes back positive, ask about what percentage of those tests come back as false positives. If you aren’t satisfied with the response, demand they test you again. By becoming a problem patient, you may not get a Christmas card from your doctor, but you’ll be sure they treat you thoroughly if only to get out of the room.

The next strategy is to encourage anyone who has suffered from a misdiagnosis to consider legal action. Getting a lawyer to press every case will help hammer home to doctors that their patients have grown wise to their errors and it’s time to either slow down and get it right or go broke.

The final strategy is to develop a lobby to push members of Congress to write laws to help cut down on these problems. Doctors and hospitals obviously have a powerful lobby of their own, but it is time for the rest of us to have our voice be heard, even if we can’t keep up with the massive amounts spent by the medical professionals.


By using all three strategies, we can hopefully finally begin to push doctors to do their job and remember their oath: first and foremost, they should do us no harm.